The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate. They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him.
Food For Thought:
In this passage of Scripture, we see hospitality being given to strangers. Hospitality in the ancient world was a deep spiritual practice. Strangers who were traveling in a new region did not always find a hospitable reception in antiquity. For starters, they were easy prey for thieves and robbers who trolled the roadways in sparsely populated areas. Furthermore, many townspeople saw mysterious strangers as threats and therefore sought to shun, abuse, or eliminate these outsiders before they could harm the community. Recall, for instance, how the men of Sodom (Genesis 19:1- 11) and the men of Gibeah (Judges 19:14-26) wanted to take advantage of strangers and selfishly abuse them in violent ways. As a result, one of the core features of ancient hospitality included the host’s implicit vow to pro vide the stranger with protection. In essence, the custom of hospitality in antiquity grew out of a desire to neutralize potential threats—both threats to strangers and threats to one’s community. Not only were generous hosts protecting strangers from thieves along the road and from townspeople inclined toward mob violence, they were seeking to protect their household and community from the wrath of the stranger. In the event that a traveler had either military resources or “magical” powers, it was thought that a host’s abundant generosity might neutralize the potential threat while cultivating the stranger’s favor (see, for example, the story of Joshua’s “spies” being hosted by Rahab in Joshua 2:1- 21 and 6:22-25). As a result, the leading citizens of a community often bore the primary responsibility for hosting strangers. Think of our modern day understanding of hospitality. In many ways, it is a large art form that needs recovering in modern day discipleship. Think of ways that you can be hospitable to others. What kinds of things does radical hospitality involve?
Almighty and everlasting God, you made the universe with
all its marvelous order, its atoms, worlds, and galaxies, and
the infinite complexity of living creatures: Grant that, as we
probe the mysteries of your creation, we may come to know
you more truly, and more surely fulfill our role in your
eternal purpose; in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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